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Research Guides

Submit and Publish Your Thesis

Choosing a Creative Commons license for your thesis

When submitting your thesis online, you can choose to apply a Creative Commons (CC) license to your work. This section explains what CC licenses are, how to choose and apply them to your thesis.

What is a Creative Commons License?

A Creative Commons license allows you, as a copyright holder, to give others permission to use and share your work online while still giving you credit.

Copyright and CC licenses are like siblings – related but with some important distinctions as CC licenses are built on top of copyright. CC licenses express very clearly: "I am the copyright owner, but you can do anything with my thesis (under these conditions)”

Copyright can protect your creativity and original ideas from uses you do not consent to. However, copyright can also be too restrictive.  For example, if someone wants to use and share your thesis, they will need your permission first in most cases. This permission-seeking process can take up time and be a barrier to your intellectual output reaching a wider audience.

With CC licenses, you can refine the extent of your copyright to allow others to re-use your work, at anytime and anywhere. Your moral rights of attribution will remain and you can continue re-using, sharing and publishing your thesis.

A CC license lasts for as long as copyright for the work exists, the work will then belong to the public domain 70* years after the creator’s death in Canada.

How does each CC license differ?

Every CC license has different components, according to the following four types of license elements, which include Attribution, ShareAlike, NonCommercial, and NoDerivatives. These work as specific attributes of Creative Common licenses and are shown below:

License elements: Attribution, ShareAlike, NonCommercial, NoDerivatives.

These elements can be used in six different ways to create the license combos that range from the most open (CC BY) to the most restrictive (CC BY-NC-ND):

Creative Commons licenses ordered from the most free to the least free.

Source: “How to attribute Creative Commons Photos” by Foter. Licensed under a CC-BY-SA 3.0 license

Why should I consider a Creative Commons License?


Some pros of choosing a CC license for your thesis are:

  • A fully copyright-protected thesis despite being available online, cannot be reproduced or redistributed for future students’ research. Adding a CC license will facilitate better sharing of your work, increase the readership of your thesis, advance the scholarly discourse in your field, and contribute to the public good. (From CC Licensing your dissertations, Creative Commons)
  • This short video by BCcampus also illustrates how CC-licensed materials can advance knowledge sharing.
  • Creative commons licenses are machine-readable, which means that search engines can detect and display your work accordingly.


Some things to keep in mind:

  • Once granted, the CC license cannot be revoked. The reason for this is that if you allow someone to re-use your work and then revoke permission, this could potentially be exploited in a lawsuit. However, as a copyright holder you can still publish a manuscript derived from your thesis and assign copyright to the publisher, or a different license to it.
  • You must own or control copyright over your work to apply a CC license. If you are re-using third party materials in your thesis, prominently indicate which portions of your thesis are not covered by the CC license that you are assigning, or are covered by other licenses or trademark rights. (From Considerations for licensors, Creative Commons)
  • If you are submitting a sandwich/integrated thesis that consists of published articles, you may have transferred copyright over your work to the publisher. This would affect your ability to assign a CC license to parts of your thesis or the whole thesis. For more details on publishing before or after graduation, see section Publishing from your thesis: Scenario 3.

Which CC License should I choose?

Applying a CC license to your thesis is optional, so the choice is yours.

You need to ask yourself first:

  • Do you want others to re-use your work and build upon it without having to ask your permission?
  • Are you comfortable with others copying and remixing your work?
  • Are you comfortable with others profiting from your work?

If you need help answering these questions and choosing a license, you can try the CC License Chooser quiz.

How do I apply the CC license to my thesis?

To apply a CC license to your thesis, indicate it in the following two places:

1. Select one of the 6 CC license types using the ProQuest ETD Administrator site when you submit your thesis.

Click on the “Creative Commons” tab on the side panel to see the full license descriptions and choose appropriately:

Creative Commons licenses selection page in ProQuest ETD Admin.

The CC license you choose will travel with your thesis when it is transferred to the U of T’s TSpace repository and will be displayed there. Here is an example of a thesis licensed under the CC BY license.

2. Add the CC license of your choice on the thesis title page, under the Copyright statement, e.g.:

© Copyright by Jane Ann Doe 2022

This work is licensed under Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

Adding CC license information directly on the title page will ensure that readers are aware of the license even if your thesis is shared or saved locally.

You can use the CC License Chooser to generate the license statement and link for the thesis title page.